Late Barrister Khan Saifullah Khan, a noble and dedicated stalwart of the independent movement.

Each year, April 4 being observed as death anniversary of Barrister Saifullah Khan

Rehmat Mehsud

Islamabad: Each year, the 4th of April is being observed as the death anniversary of a widely respected person known as Barrister Khan Saifullah Khan, a noble and dedicated stalwart of the independent movement. The April 4, 1964 marks the death anniversary of a very noble and dedicated stalwart of the independence movement.

Barrister Khan was born on the January 1, 1915 in Ghazni Khel, Bannu, during then British India. His father was Khan Sahib Faizullah Khan, and grand-father was Khan Sherdil Khan, who was the Raees and Khan of Marwat, a tribe that lives on large swathes of southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). His grandfather’s land owning and the family’s stature were also mentioned in the 1907 British Gazetteer of the Bannu District. His father Khan Sahib Faizullah Khan was a landowner, and then government contractor in India.

During the early 1900, he built several roads, bridges, barracks, cantonment areas, and other infrastructure projects all over D. I. Khan division, South and North Waziristan, Bannu and Tank districts. He also built a small runway in Tank, the first district to the South Waziristan tribal region, for planes to land. Khan Sahib Faizullah Khan got the first contract of Chashma Right Bank Canal.

In 1927, he purchased the Bannu Electric Supply Company for a princely sum of Rs. 200,000. He never took any mobilization advance, and submitted his total bill once the entire project was completed. He was elected as Member of then NWFP Legislative Assembly in 1936, and remained a member till 1945. This was the first election ever held under the government of India Act, 1935.

Before starting every contract, Faizullah Khan would build a mosque or a well being a pious and generous man. He was generous and large hearted person, and some of his philanthropic works can still be seen in forms of mosques, and inns for travellers to stay in.

Saifullah Khan graduated from Government College Lahore, and went later to England to become a Barrister. He was a member of Muslim Student Federation at the time along with Col Abid Hussain, Syed Inayat Ali Shah, Yusuf Khattak and others. He was called to the Bar in 1939 from Middle Temple. During his tenure abroad as a student, he travelled extensively in Europe, and picked many languages including French and German. He was an avid and fond skier, and once broke his leg while skiing in Switzerland. He returned in 1939 to India, and spent some time in D. I. Khan, before moving to Peshawar.

In Peshawar, he spent a short while practicing law with Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, future Chief Minister of Frontier province, but stopped practicing law after few months.

He was married to Kulsum Bibi, daughter of the legendary Khan Bahadur Kuli Khan Khattak.  Saifullah Khan started a canning factory in 1941 called KK & Co., which was the first fruit and vegetable canning factory in the whole of Indian subcontinent, and was the largest supplier of canned foods to the troops during the Second World War.

Subsequently in 1942, Saifullah Khan started a dehydration factory. He also acquired the contract of Frontier Processing Industries, which was government owned, and used his money to revamp and restart the factories.

Saifullah Khan played a very active role in the independence movement, spending his money and resources in the civil disobedience movement. He along with hundreds of supporters was jailed by the British for his disobedience and kept in Bannu jail. His son, Salim, was born when Saifullah Khan was in jail. He worked day and night, and was committed to the cause. His brother in law Yusuf Khattak was also placed behind bars for civil disobedience. This was a time of great turmoil, and Saifullah Khan spared no effort or resources to arrange medication, accommodation, and other necessities of life for the all refugees and displaced people.

He had good terms with Quaid-e-Azam, but was especially close to Liaquat Ali Khan. For his contributions and sacrifices, he was awarded a gold medal. A gold medal was also given to his wife, Kulsum, who too played an active role in Independence movement.

Saifullah Khan had one older brother Niamatullah Khan, who was a businessman and member of parliament and later Senator. Niamatullah Khan took the initial step of introducing the Muslim League in district Bannu by holding a large rally in Lady Gardens, and joined the league along with other prominent personalities like Nawab Qutbuddin Khan of Tank.

After getting married, Saifullah Khan joined the Muslim League. Kulsum Bibi’s brother Aslam Khattak, who as President of Khyber Union at Oxford University in early 1930’s signed the declaration ‘Now or Never’ along with Ch. Rehmat Ali in which the name Pakistan was coined.

Saifullah Khan’s brother in law, Yusuf Khattak, was the first Secretary General of Pakistan Muslim League after independence after Liaquat Ali Khan. His brother in law, Aslam Khattak was Governor of NWFP, Ambassador to Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Federal Minister. His other brother in law General Habibullah Khan, retired prematurely as Chief of General Staff of the Pakistan army, and went on to form the famous Gandhara Industry, which includes Nissan Pakistan today.

Yusuf Khattak remained in opposition, and supported Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan in the Presidential Election, and was elected as Federal Minister of Petroleum during ZABs time.

Kulsum Bibi was also advisor to Raana Liaquat Ali Khan, and the head of APWA Frontier Province. Despite being in political wilderness, Saifullah Khan exercised a key role in political affairs of NWFP, and always lent a helping hand whenever the government required.

Both Husband and wife and their families worked day and night to mobilise voters in the 1947 referendum in NWFP in favour of Pakistan. Liaquat Ali Khan, after partition offered him and Yusuf Khattak permits to put up textile mills in 1949 in Frontier Province, but Saifullah Khan politely declined, and said he already had factories, and other entrepreneurs should be given a chance.

Yusuf Khattak and Khan Qayyum Khan, Chief Minister started developing political differences, as Yusuf Khattak was a rising star. Saifullah Khan sided with his brother in law, and had to face the brunt of the Chief Ministers pressure; his father’s Bannu Electric Supply Company was nationalised on March 6, 1952, and the FPI contracts were revoked by Khan Qayyum.

Saifullah Khan was also a victim of the first electoral fraud in Pakistan’s history as Khan Qayyum arranged for bogus balloting against Saifullah Khan and Yusuf Khattak in the elections held on December 8, 1951, in which Saifullah Khan was contesting.

Saifullah Khan was a notable philanthropist and especially supported causes of education, and some of the students on his scholarships went to achieve great success. He donated a sum of Rs. 50,000 in the 1950s to APWA.

Saifullah Khan was elected to the National Assembly in 1962 as the sole MNA from Bannu District. Ayub Khan offered him a position in the Federal Cabinet, to which he recommended a friend, who was older. However, Ayub Khan later on insisted on inducting him, but Saifullah Khan tragically passed away of Heart attack in Rawalpindi on April 4, 1964. Saifullah Khan also donated 500 canals of land to PIDC for setting up of the Bannu Sugar Mills. He had plans to get into shipping, and steel before he passed away.

On the floor of the assembly, he always implored the government to initiate water supply schemes for his barren area. He implored the government to remove timber taxes on Mehsud tribesmen as they were poor and downtrodden, and to have equitable relations between provinces.

His wife, Kulsum Bibi, set up Kohat Textile Mills, Bannu Flour Mills, Frontier Textile Mills and other industries after his death, and generated thousands of jobs in the Frontier Province.

She went on to become the first Female Federal Minister of Pakistan. His son Javed Khan brought the first GSM in South Asia to Pakistan in 1994 under the name of Mobilink along with Motorola, and set up Pakistan’s First Under Sea Fiber Optic Cable in private sector, and set up Textiles, Software, Energy, Power and other industries.

His son Humayun Saifullah Khan was a Minister in ZABs tenure, and later on Salim Khan became Provincial and Federal Minister. Anwar Khan his son also remained a Federal Minister. Dr. Iqbal Saifullah Khan, his youngest son is a Harvard trained cardiologist, and runs a famous hospital.

Saifullah Khan Trust and Saifullah Foundation today grants scholarships to many deserving students, and have initiated irrigation and education and poverty alleviation projects all over Pakistan.

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